The Benefits of Suppressed Hunting
Hunting with Suppressors
As suppressors have become more popular over the last few years, many hunters are starting to see the benefits of using them while in the field. Being able to preserve the shooter’s hearing while hunting is certainly an obvious perk; however, there are many other benefits that may not be immediately apparent.
With traditional plugs or muffs, the sounds commonly heard in nature are strongly muffled. With modern electronic hearing protection, those same sounds are too quiet, distorted, or obnoxiously dramatic. An armadillo nearby often sounds like an elephant crashing through brush, and a small flying insect may as well be a remote control helicopter buzzing around your head. Natural audio clues greatly increase the chances of a successful hunting trip, regardless of what the prey is. Being able to hear doves flying, pigs grunting, or coyotes howling in the distance are often the difference between success and failure. Unfortunately, many hunters now suffer from severe hearing loss associated with years of unprotected ears. They value the ability to hear nature over their own auditory health, which unfortunately diminishes their abilities in the field down the road.
Aside from the shooter's own hearing being protected, suppressors also protect the hearing of others in the immediate area. This could be a hunting partner, wife, child, or even dog along for the trip. Excluding the health benefits, many loud firearms can intimidate those new to the shooting sports. They may pull shots by anticipating the report and flinching, resulting in a missed shot or wounded animal. Even worse, they may be scared away from the sport entirely.
Expanding on the above logic, loud firearms can restrict a hunter's opportunities in other ways. Be it an anti-gun neighbor or people not wanting to be disturbed at night, suppressors can allow for better relationships with neighbors and land owners. There are a fair number of ranchers in Texas who have hog and coyote problems; however, they don't want to be woken up at all hours of the night from a multitude of gun shots. Given that both of the above animals are primarily hunted in the dark, it makes controlling them rather difficult. Suppressors may, and often do, allow property owners to grant permission for night hunting. Additionally, it's the polite way to approach the subject and develop good relationships.
One property we frequently hunt has a neighbor fairly nearby who has nothing against us being out there, but his wife doesn't care to hear semi-automatic rifles when she's trying to sleep. Suppressed shooting keeps his wife sleeping well, which keeps both of them happy. In turn, it helps provide a comfortable relationship between everyone involved. This type of situation is certainly not uncommon. This past fall my mother called me and explained how she was frustrated by all the gunshots from deer season and that they were scaring the dogs. She then quickly exclaimed, "I wish everyone used those suppressor things." My mother is not overly fond of firearms, but she fully supports suppressed shooting simply because it mitigates the noise she has to hear from the neighbors.
Along with sound mitigation, suppressors also reduce visible muzzle flash. This generally isn't a factor for most people, but it can be a tremendous benefit when using night vision. As stated above, many predator and hog hunters use darkness to their advantage. Night vision use is on the rise and it pairs extremely well with suppressed rifles. The lack of muzzle flash is not only less distracting, but can help preserve the life of many night vision devices.
When shooting quietly, there are two significant aspects that change animal behavior. One is the reduction in overall noise generation, and the second is masking the shooters location. These two points may sound similar at first, but both can benefit the hunter in slightly different ways.
With a reduction in overall sound signature, animals may be less prone to leaving a specific area. They certainly will hear the shot and may react, but it's not a guarantee you'll scare everything in the immediate area into the next county. Their specific behavior is difficult to explain, and only slightly predictable. Consider the following analogy -- If you are sitting at home in the bedroom and there's a gun shot next to your trash can outside, most people immediately know what that sound is and immediately react to the situation. Everyone has different reactions, but a reaction in present. If someone came up and kicked the trash can once, the same reaction may not be triggered. You may have a higher level of alertness, or you may think it sounds like a raccoon is trying to get in the trash again. It doesn't generate the same level of response. If said imaginary figure kept kicking the trash can over and over, it certainly would catch your attention.
The same is true with wildlife when reacting to a suppressed shot. They tend to hear the shot, but don't show immediate signs of panicking. A deer may treat the shot like a loud truck door slamming. When I was hunting in Wisconsin, the deer were extremely skittish. On the last day of the season, I took a deer at 480 yards. Two others were in the nearby area and they completely ignored the shot. With an unsuppressed rifle, the chances of them running would have been significantly higher. It's not a guarantee you won't spook game, but the chances are decreased.
Masking the direction of the shot is often times even more important than reducing the muzzle report. To the animals in the area, the loudest sound is the supersonic crack of the projectile moving. The predominate sound they hear is being echoed off of objects rather than coming from the shooter's location. When they react, it's largely in relation to the perceived direction of that crack. Game will pinpoint the shooter if the firing continues, but it may scatter a sounder of pigs in random directions or a coyote further into an open field before they do. This grants the hunter a few more seconds and a couple more shots. Doubles and triples can occur much more frequently simply because the game is confused about where they should run.
Hunting is never completely predictable. A successful hunter uses a variety of tools to increase chances. Some of these include tracking skills, animal behavior knowledge, game cameras, camouflage, calling, feeders, weather patterns, and hunting in conjunction with the wind. Most all would agree the above are important to various degrees, but each has a role in upping the chances for a successful hunt. Suppressors are no different, they're simply a tool that can be added into a hunters arsenal to increase success in the field.